MKO grand chief not stepping down amid misspending allegations
David Harper says expenses in question were paid back through payroll deductions
Grand Chief David Harper of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) says he will not step down despite allegations of misspending, and he intends to clear his name.
Travel and other invoices obtained by APTN have raised questions about how Harper is spending money at MKO, which represents most First Nations in the province's north.
Member chiefs demanded Harper's suspension earlier this week, but the grand chief is refusing, especially while an audit of MKO's finances is underway.
"I'm not in a position to step down because we have business to do," he told CBC News on Thursday. "All those personal transactions … I want to be able to address that to the chiefs."
Harper said all his personal expenses were paid back through payroll deductions, and he plans to present a report proving that point to the chiefs' executive council next week.
Among the invoices that have surfaced is one from St. John's Music for three guitars each worth $298.
Harper said the guitars were gifts for guests at a Christmas fundraiser.
Several travel expenses were submitted to MKO in the name of Harper's partner, Belinda Beardy, with the total costs between 2011 and 2013 in the thousands of dollars.
One bill for both Harper and Beardy for return flights to Ottawa totalled almost $3,000.
Harper said MKO has a "good rate" with the travel agency in question, adding that payroll deductions covered the costs.
The invoices have made the grand chief a target within MKO, with Chief Arlen Dumas of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation threatening to remove his community's support of the organization if Harper does not resign or isn't removed from office.
"His poor management, lack of leadership, financial mismanagement and his continued refusals to account for his actions publicly are disgraceful," Dumas wrote in a recent letter.
Harper said Dumas has been trying to get him out of office for some time, pointing to Dumas's efforts to call a non-confidence vote last year.